White House Senior Adviser Kellyanne Conway is being accused of violating federal ethics rules again.
In February, she generated considerable controversy by endorsing Ivanka Trump's clothing line during an appearance on Fox News. She urged viewers to purchase Ivanka's products after the announcement by Nordstrom and other retailers that they were discontinuing them because of poor sales caused by the #GrabYourWallet boycott.
"Go buy Ivanka's stuff, is what I would tell you," said Conway said in response to the boycott, reported Cosmopolitan magazine at the time. "It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully -- I'm going to just, I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."
Conway's endorsement was questionable because federal law bars public employees from making an "endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity."
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She claims that there are wholly separate staffs -- one for the campaign and one that worked on the super PAC accounts -- and that she has never had access whatsoever to the super PAC portions, reports Politico.
Bipartisan condemnation of her remarks quickly ensued, noted The Washington Post.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland submitted a letter to the Office of Government Ethics requesting that the agency investigate Conway's comments and recommend to President Donald Trump that "appropriate disciplinary action" be brought against her.
In response, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer assured reporters that Conway was "counseled" on the comment, and the matter quietly faded away.
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However, another alleged conflict of interest regarding Conway is the Polling Company -- a consulting firm which she founded. In addition to polling services, the firm provides "political strategy consulting and messaging work" for various political groups and campaigns, and also to major corporations such as Boeing.
It is uncertain whether or not she has divested her interest in the company, writes Josh Voorhees for Slate. If not, it could be a federal crime punishable with prison time, he notes, because she would be able to use her public office to advance the interests of her private business, whose clients would obviously value her position as adviser to the president.
Although the Polling Company’s website says that Conway “resigned” as president and CEO effective Jan. 20, the company did not respond to attempts by Slate to obtain further details.
The White House provided Slate with the following response:
Kellyanne Conway resigned from the company and has had no management responsibility since before she was sworn in as Counselor to The President. Mrs. Conway, who has signed the Ethics Pledge, has been working with the Office of the White House Counsel to ensure she is fully compliant with her legal and ethical obligations in connection with her former company and her duties in the White House. While she is in the process of divesting her assets, like all White House employees in a similar situation, this process requires submission of ethics documentation to the Office of Government Ethics to obtain a Certificate of Divestiture from OGE prior to selling the asset. As is the case for many other employees, this process is still underway.
However, there is no current record of Conway or the White House obtaining a certificate from OGE, Voorhees contends.